Gigabyte P34G v5 review: an above-average portable gaming laptop

20160412181941_big

The P34G is Gigabyte’s smallest laptop, a compact 14-inch model with a reasonable £750 price point. Today, we’re reviewing the latest v5 model, which adds modern niceties including USB-C, HDMI 2.0 and sixth generation Intel Skylake processors.


Pros

  • Super-portable design
  • Good screen, keyboard and trackpad
  • USB-C & HDMI 2.0 are nice upgrades
Cons

  • Gaming performance is lacking
  • Speakers distort at 100%
  • Time for a design refresh?

Summary and Score

score6The P34G v5 proves that a compact gaming laptop doesn’t have to be super expensive. While its performance pales in comparison to the larger and more expensive P35X v5, it still provides decent gaming performance at 1080p in an ultra-portable package.

Support XSR: Buy for - from Amazon.com
 

Specifications

  • CPU: 6th Generation Core i7 6700HQ (2.7~3.5GHz)
  • GPU: Nvidia GTX 960M (2GB GDDR5)
  • RAM: 8GB DDR4 2133MHz
  • Display: 14-inch 1920 x 1080p LCD
  • Storage: 128GB PCI-e SSD and 1TB 5400RPM HDD
  • Battery: 61.25Wh
  • Ports: 3x USB 3.0, 1x USB-C, HDMI 2.0, 2x 3.5mm, SD, ethernet
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi ac, BT 4.1
  • OS: Windows 10
  • Size: 340 x 239 x 20.9mm
  • Weight: 1.7kg

 

Design

The P34G is a compact and handsome laptop, with a restrained look that sets it apart from some other gaming laptops. The slim design utilises rounded corners and a metal build, making for a laptop that feels reassuringly strong and inflexible. The dark matte chassis lacks ornamentation, with no superfluous LED lighting or other attention-grabbing features. The lid of the laptop exemplifies this, with a reflective Gigabyte logo set on a near completely uniform backdrop.

photo (1)

Once opened, you’ll see the laptop’s 1080p display, measuring 14 inches across (hence the 4 in the laptop’s name). The bezels around the screen are rather thick compared to recent laptops made by Dell and others; it would be great to see a more advanced version of the P34G with a borderless design.

photo (7)

The backlit keyboard sports a comfortable, regular layout and has a bit of tactile feedback, despite its minimal travel. Typing on the keyboard is comfortable, as is using the wide trackpad below. Of course, for gaming you’ll likely be using a mouse anyway.

photo (5)

When it comes to ports, we see a few iterations on v4 version of this laptop. The left side has a Kensington lock, a VGA port, a USB 3.0 port, a USB-C port and a 3.5mm headphone jack. On the right, we have the power input, an HDMI port, two more USB 3.0 ports and an SD card reader. The layout is largely sensible; I particularly like that there are USB ports on both sides of the machine. Compared to the 15.6-inch P35, we’re missing the micro DisplayPort, but there are no other omissions.

combine_images

The bottom of the laptop has a panel to access the RAM, if you wanted to opt for 16GB of DDR4 instead of 8GB.

photo (2)

The P34G is a sensibly arranged laptop, with few surprises.


 

Impressions

Before we get into the synthetic and game benchmarks, here are my impressions using the laptop for a one week period for both playing games and working — including writing articles like this one, using Photoshop and surfing the web.


Gaming

The laptop’s GTX 960M graphics card is firmly in the low end of the current crop of Nvidia cards, but the strong i7-6700HQ processor meant that gaming performance was still respectable. As we’ll see in the benchmarks later, gaming at 1080p at low to medium detail settings was largely possible, although more demanding titles like Company of Heroes 2 proved more of a challenge and should probably be played at 720p instead.

The laptop’s keyboard was a little shallow for our liking, which lead to some accidental key presses in stressful competitive matches of Counter-Strike. We’d recommend picking up a gaming keyboard (hopefully a mechanical one), if you’re planning to game seriously on the P34G at a LAN or at home.

A surprisingly legitimate gaming laptop

A 14-inch display isn’t ideal for fast-paced gaming, as it feels you have to stick your face very close to the screen to see details in the distance. In many titles this isn’t a concern — e.g. Rocket League, Civilization V, Company of Heroes 2 — but for faster-paced shooters like Doom 4 or Counter-Strike, it can be a little grating. Connecting to a monitor solves this, but that’s hardly the point of a portable gaming laptop.

Otherwise, the P34G is a surprisingly legitimate gaming laptop, even if its specifications are towards the lower end of the field. If you’re happy to stick with older titles or lower resolutions, then this laptop is perfectly capable.


Work

The high-powered processor, decent SSD and capable graphics card make the P34G v5 more than a match for work-related tasks. Whether surfing the web or crunching through Photoshop, we were impressed with the laptop’s abundant performance.

The keyboard, trackpad and display were also up to par. The 1080p screen was usable at 150% scaling without issue, and could be dropped to 125 or even 100% scaling for eagle-eyed viewers without discomfort. The keyboard felt shallow compared to other laptops, but once you’ve adjusted to it, its tactile response, standard layout and even backlighting let you type with speed and precision. The trackpad was reliable in our usage, with no problems performing taps or multi-touch gestures.

The laptop’s portability was also an asset, fitting easily into even a small messenger bag without issue (although the oversized charger is more problematic). Battery life was acceptable at six hours, although similarly skinny laptops can eke out more than twice that.

One of the few real concerns we had concerned the speakers, which became very distorted at 100% volume. We haven’t experienced this issue on other Gigabyte laptops, so it’s either a bad unit or an unfortunate regression.

Overall, the P34G proved to be a capable work machine, without the sacrifices in portability and battery life that other gaming laptops we’ve tested have shown.


 

Benchmarks

We’ll use the normal suite of benchmarks here, encapsulating in-game benchmarks as well as more general purpose tests for things like CPU performance and storage speed.


3DMark

3DMark_FS

3DMark_FS_Ultra

Our first test is 3DMark, a fairly effective analogue of a gaming workload. There are two tests we’re interested in here, the high-end Fire Strike and its 4K upgrade, Fire Strike Ultra.

The P34G performs poorly in both, with a sub-1000 score in the 4K test and a similarly bad score of around 4000 in the main Fire Strike workload. This reflects performance around the level of mid to high-end gaming laptops around two years ago, a noteworthy reminder that this laptop comes with a low-end GTX 960M GPU.


Cinebench

CB_GPU

CB_CPU

Next up is the Cinebench test. This test is a good illustration of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the P34G; it crushes the CPU test and gets crushed in the GPU test. We haven’t tested a laptop with a GTX 960M in a long time, and it’s clear to see how much you’re losing compared to a GTX 970M or even GTX 965M.


GeekBench

GEEKBENCH

The P34G v5 turns in a surprisingly poor multi-core score, putting in the bottom half of the table. The 6700HQ has shown some performance regression compared to the 5700HQ, and it may be that we’re seeing the same results here.


CrystalDiskMark

CRYSTAL_R

CRYSTAL_W

When it comes to read performance, the P34G performs adequately, with figures around that 500MB/s standard for a SATA-connected SSD.

The P34G v5 scores very poorly in the write section of the test though, recording a score half that of similarly equipped Gigabyte laptops. We got similar scores after re-running the tests in different conditions, and we’re still unsure what’s causing these.


The Division

DIVISION

Settings: Ultra 1080p

Our first game test is Tom Clancy’s The Division, a recently released cover shooter MMO set in the frozen wastes of post-viral-outbreak NYC. The Ultra / 1080p settings are incredibly demanding, but the P34G still puts up a respectable score of 37.9, only a few frames behind the (more expensive) Acer G6 gaming desktop.

We also tested the game on the default Low graphics preset instead, and got a playable 56.4 average fps (with 56.9 typical fps, 67% CPU usage and 74% GPU usage). That result shows that The Division quite playable at 1080p, if you’re willing to make a few concessions on image quality.


Bioshock Infinite

BIO

Settings: High 1080p

Bioshock Infinite represents the easiest workload for our test machines, but it’s still important given just how many games of its era use the same Unreal Engine. The P34G v5 delivers a surprisingly lacklustre result here, but it’s still comfortably above 60 fps at high settings and 1080p.


Metro: Last Light

METRO

Settings: High 1080p, AF 4x, normal motion blur, no SSAA, DirectX 11 tessellation or advanced PhysX

Metro is another demanding benchmark, and the P34G again shows signs of weakness. It manages a middling 46 fps score, putting it in the same camp as high-end laptops from about two years ago. Still, drop the resolution to 720p and you’ll have a highly playable game.


Company of Heroes 2

COH2

Settings: Medium 1080p, no unit occlusion, v-sync or anti-aliasing

Company of Heroes 2 has one of the most difficult benchmarks we use, offering a kind of ‘worst case scenario’ rather than something more typical of either the singleplayer campaign or multiplayer. 40 fps is probably the lowest acceptable ‘playable’ result, then, and competitive CoH2 players might choose to drop the render resolution a bit to hit 60 fps consistently.


Total War: Rome 2

ROME

Settings: Ultra 1080p

We conclude with a look at performance in a large-scale RTS, Total War: Rome 2. The P34G records our worst result in some time here, largely a function of the game’s reliance on your GPU over your CPU. The GTX 960M just isn’t up to snuff at 1080p / Ultra, although at 720p it produces a result comfortably above 60 fps. So it’s not brilliant performance, but still largely playable.


 

Wrap-up

The P34G v5 is a convincing portable gaming laptop, capable of running recent titles at 1080p on low to medium detail settings, as well as handling work tasks with ease. While raw horsepower is somewhat lacking, the laptop feels well constructed and gets the fundamentals — keyboard, trackpad, display — all correct. If you’d like more firepower, you could step up to the P34W v5, which has a GTX 970 inside.

While the inclusion of modern standards like USB-C and HDMI 2.0 is welcome, I’d like to see Gigabyte update their design in the next iteration, perhaps including a borderless display. After five iterations, I’m ready for a change!

Support XSR: Buy for - from Amazon.com

About William Judd

Editor-in-Chief for XSReviews. Find me @Expert_Will or on G+.

Check Also

Preator-15-main

Acer Predator 15 G9-591 review

Most gaming laptops these days are sleek, futuristic machines that signal their gaming prowess through …